Articles Comments

Holy Family Cathedral » Featured » Tulsans put their Faith in Action through HFC Outreach

Tulsans put their Faith in Action through HFC Outreach

by Andrea Eger Canfield

hand and telephoneWhen those in need of assistance in the Tulsa community reach out for help from Holy Family Cathedral, a team of dedicated volunteers exists to answer the call.


In fact Holy Family Cathedral Outreach receives about 35 such calls every month and volunteers respond to each and every one of them.

“Without the support of Holy Family’s parishioners, many of our less fortunate brethren would be unable to get over some of the bumps, hiccups, in their lives. Outreach fills a niche by focusing on smoothing out those occasional bumps, allowing those in need to get on with their lives and search for long-term solutions to life’s many problems,” said Don Cannon, who has volunteered with the group for about 15 years and retired as Tulsa City Council Administrator four years ago.

Outreach relies solely on funds from occasional second collections taken up during Mass, and because the operation is run by volunteers, there are zero overhead costs. That means 100 percent of contributions for Outreach go to assist people needing mostly utility or rental assistance.

In 2013, Outreach served 288 clients, with the average financial assistance being $73. In 2014, 200 clients were served with payments that averaged $89.

“Clients are limited to assistance one time per year. We frequently maximize our assistance by requiring our clients to secure matching contributions from Salvation Army or another helping agency. If we are unable to assist the client, we offer other community resources,” said Carol Lapolla, Outreach president.

“As a group, we focus on the poor. It is a needed program at this time when there is so much unemployment and so many elderly in need.”
-Sister Bernard

During a visit to a homeless shelter in 2013, Pope Francis said, “To love God and neighbor is not something abstract, but profoundly concrete. It means seeing in every person and face of the Lord to be served, to serve him concretely.”

It is that spirit of service that drives the work of Outreach’s volunteers, who are both working professionals and retirees alike who commit about one hour per week on average.

Don and Anne Cannon are the longest-serving members of the group, which was originally founded as a chapter of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

“We wanted to thank God for his many blessings by giving back in direct, one-on-one, situations. We wanted to have an immediate impact on the lives of our less fortunate brethren,” said Don Cannon.

Most calls are for assistance with paying utilities, oftentimes by people who are in imminent danger of having their power, heat or water cut off. Outreach has established a working relationship with local utility companies so that group members can call and verify what client balances are past due.

Group members use a simple and convenient online portal to retrieve clients’ contact information and to request payments for assistance.

Beyond Internet access, volunteers need no qualifications other than a heart for the kind of service called for by Saint Rose of Lima, the first person born in the Americas to be canonized, who said, “When we serve the poor and the sick, we serve Jesus.”

“It is a wonderful thing that Holy Family tries to assist people as much as it can – especially the elderly and children. Most call when their lights would be cut out or their water turned off and those are essential things we need,” said Sister Mary Bernard, who is part of the community of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother (SSM), Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Assisi. “As a group, we focus on the poor. It is a needed program at this time when there is so much unemployment and so many elderly in need.”

Bernard previously worked as a nurse at St. John Medical Center and a local nursing home, but retired earlier this year and now devotes her volunteer time to Outreach and Catholic Charities.

Lately, she has noticed an uptick in calls for help from very young parents, 19 to 21 years of age, and said she is heartened to know the church can help those in need make ends meet, particularly when there are children involved.

Bernard said she often talks over her Outreach clients with fellow volunteer, Sister Anastasia Joseph. The two have even made a couple of home visits to clients over the years.

“There have been times when I was wondering what was going on in their life so we popped over there to see. Some people abuse the system, so we have to be very careful. We don’t take the money for granted – we want to use it wisely,” Bernard said. “We are not parishioners, but we are Catholics, so if any church needs something, we assist.”

Interested in donating or volunteering? Please call Carol at 918-742-3503 for more information.

Filed under: Featured · Tags:

Leave a Reply